Germany passed two million confirmed coronavirus cases today as Angela Merkel prepares to take even stricter measures to reduce the country’s persistently high infection rate.
The more difficult options on the table include border controls and requirements to wear high quality FFP2 masks in some places, according to German media.
The latest daily increase of 22,368 cases made Germany the sixth country in Europe to have passed two million cases after the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Russia.
Although the infection rate is slightly below its December peak, cases have not dropped to the desired low despite a month-long stagnation in Europe’s largest economy.
Friday was also the third day in a row with more than 1,000 deaths in the most populous country in the EU. 1,113 new deaths resulted in 44,994 deaths.
The head of the German Institute for Infectious Diseases warned Thursday that too many people are still socializing during the lockdown and said there were still too many exceptions.
The infection rate in Germany has remained high since November, despite increasingly strict lockdown measures to reduce infections
The average death rate in Germany is 900 per day. More than 1,000 people usually die from Covid-19 on weekdays
Angela Merkel, who is pictured in the German Bundestag on Wednesday, is expected to push for stricter restrictions next week in view of the persistently high infection rates in the country
Merkel told CDU party colleagues on Thursday that, according to the participants in the meeting, the virus could only be stopped with “considerable additional measures”.
She will hold another round of talks with the prime ministers on Tuesday and advance discussions that were originally planned for the following week.
Bavaria has already made FFP2 masks mandatory for medical use on public transport and in stores, which sparked speculation that this will happen across the country as well.
Your spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters that “the number of new infections with an average of 19,200 new cases per day remains far too high”.
That number has to drop to around 6,000 per day for Germany to achieve its goal of reducing the infection rate below 50 per 100,000.
It hasn’t been that low since October, although there have been some improvements in the past few days – with today’s 22,368 cases, well below the 31,849 from last Friday.
Seibert also said the government takes “very seriously” concerns about the new strain of the virus that has emerged in the UK and is considered more contagious.
“All of this is reason enough to step up our efforts,” he added.
Bars, gyms, cultural and leisure centers closed in early November, followed by non-essential shops and schools in December.
Authorities have also turned social gatherings upside down, limiting contacts to just one other person outside the household.
Seibert, however, denied media proposals that the government would consider shutting down public transport.
The most recent cases include 55 workers who tested positive in a meat processing plant near Cologne, where paramedics today collected swab samples from employees (picture)
A truck outside the Boeser plant where the outbreak occurred, which employs hundreds of people who are currently under quarantine
Coffins of coronavirus victims are stacked in a crematorium in Meissen today when Germany suffered 1,000 or more deaths for a third day in a row
According to the RKI, mobility during the current shutdown was significantly higher than in the first spring.
“There are still too many exceptions,” said RKI boss Lothar Wieler at a press conference in Berlin.
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, together with trade unions and employers, has now called for employees to be allowed to work from home “wherever possible”.
More could be done to keep non-essential workers off the office and public transport, they said. “Everyone who can work from home should do so now at the latest,” said Steinmeier.
Germany started vaccinating on the EU schedule in December. They used a stitch that was developed by his own scientists at BioNTech. But only around one percent of the 83 million people have got their first job so far, which triggered criticism of a slow rollout.
The government says hundreds of vaccination centers have been set up in sports arenas and concert halls to administer up to 300,000 shots a day.
The majority, however, are vacant, and most states are not planning to open centers until mid-January as they prioritize sending mobile teams to nursing homes.
The high infection rates have meant that the regional elections in Thuringia, a federal state in the former East that is currently a hotspot of the pandemic, have been postponed.
The vote now coincides with the German parliamentary elections on September 26, the first since 2002 without Merkel at the helm of the CDU.